After nine months and 370 fixtures, the 2016/17 Premier League season draws to a close this weekend. Liverpool host Middlesbrough in our highlight fixture with Champions League qualification hanging in the balance. Can Jurgen Klopp’s side get a vital three points? Read on for some betting insight.
This season’s Premier League campaign has provided the drama that soccer fans have come to expect in recent years. Chelsea initially ran away with the title and then looked like they could be caught by Tottenham late on, only to be crowned champions with two games to spare.
Sunderland were in trouble from the start but eight other teams were threatened with relegation at one point or another. Middlesbrough suffered a dip in form at the wrong time and Hull lost out in a two-way battle for safety with Swansea. Now, ahead of the final day of the season, Champions League qualification is all that’s left to play for.
Live odds for Liverpool vs. Middlesbrough
The maths behind Champions League qualification
In addition to the financial gains that come with finishing higher up the Premier League table, Champions League qualification usually means clubs can attract a higher calibre of player in the summer transfer window.
If Liverpool lose 2-0 and Arsenal draw 1-1, there will be a playoff game for the final Champions League spot for the first time in Premier League history.
Champions Chelsea have qualified for the Champions League, while Tottenham have guaranteed second place and one of the other four Champions League places. That means two places are still up for grabs - Manchester City and Liverpool currently occupy them with Arsenal waiting in the wings.
Arsenal have qualified for Europe’s elite soccer competition for the past 20 years but for once, it’s out of their hands - they can catch both Liverpool and Manchester City but need results to go their way. The Gunners would need the Citizens to lose against Watford and benefit from a five-goal swing in order to finish above them.
Liverpool, however, are just one point ahead of Arsenal so need a win to guarantee Champions League qualification - if Liverpool lose 2-0 and Arsenal draw 1-1, there will be a playoff game for the final Champions League spot for the first time in Premier League history.
Attack vs. what was a good defence
Scoring goals hasn’t been a problem for Liverpool this season. The Reds are joint-second highest scorers in the league (averaging 2.03 goals per game) and have evenly distributed where those goals have come from - seven Liverpool players have scored seven or more goals this season.
Up until the start of April, Middlesbrough had conceded 1.14 goals per game but since then, they have conceded 2.13 goals per game.
The same cannot be said for Middlesbrough, the lowest scoring side in the Premier League this season (averaging 0.73 goals per game). In fact, they are the second lowest scoring side in the top five leagues of European soccer (scoring one goal more than Nancy from Ligue 1).
Earlier in the season it was defensive sturdiness that was Middlesbrough’s saving grace but in recent weeks, that sturdiness has deserted them - up until the start of April, Middlesbrough had conceded 1.14 goals per game (less than Liverpool and Arsenal) but since then, they have conceded 2.13 goals per game.
Where is the value?
The fact that Liverpool have everything to play for and Middlesbrough are already down and out is reflected in the odds for Sunday’s match. While Liverpool’s -2.5 handicap odds (2.00*) might offer some value, the over 3 and 3.5 goals at 1.917* might be the most sensible bet to make.
The Reds should dominate possession and spend the majority of their time in the opposition half. With the third highest average of shots per game in the league (16.6) betting on corners could be a worthwhile alternative for bettors.
It is also worth noting that Middlesbrough commit the third most fouls per game (12.8) and have the joint-second highest average of cards per game (2.1) - this makes cards betting another potential option for those looking for value away from the traditional markets.